In today’s digital world, online marketing is crucial to the success of any newly established company. Oftentimes, however, young brands try to offset the steep costs of starting a business by tightening the purse strings for any “excess” activity in their first year. Unfortunately, public relations and marketing are often included on the list of departments whose budgets remain limited until the business gains momentum.
The good news is that there are a TON of free tools PR and marketing professionals can leverage to develop an impactful digital strategy with little to no budget. From search optimizing your website to managing your social media accounts, here are the free tools we at SHIFT find are most useful:
Social media marketing is one of most popular digital strategies companies use to increase brand awareness online. Leveraging a variety of social media platforms increases the number of opportunities for your brand to interact directly with current and future customers. There are many tools available to help businesses with their social media scheduling, managing and analytics – including the platforms themselves. Here are two of our favorites:
For social media scheduling, we recommend using the free version of buffer to get started. You can manage all your social media accounts via your one buffer account – which helps ensure you are promoting content consistently across all channels. Buffer also tracks your follower activity and helps you determine the best times to post to your accounts to optimize engagement.
According to a recent HubSpot blog post, tweets with images receive 150% more retweets than tweets without images while Facebook posts with images see 2.3x more engagement than those without. Canva is our favorite free tool for creating and editing images to include in your social media posts. It provides users with an extensive library of fonts, illustrations and over 8,000 design templates, as well as 1GB of storage for photos and assets.
Search Engine Optimization has become a buzz-phrase in the digital marketing world, but it is an important one. SEO describes the process of maximizing the number of visitors to a website by ensuring that the site appears high on the list of results returned by a search engine. This is important relative to competitors (you want your company to be higher on the list for a related keyword than your main competitor) and to your own business goals (more people visiting your website = more potential customers). Open Site Explorer and Google PageSpeed Insights are two of the best free tools available to help improve your SEO efforts:
Open Site Explorer is a tool brought to you by Moz, a popular inbound marketing and marketing analytics software company. OSE can help uncover content and link building opportunities, and can track your site’s link profile over time. The Compare Link Metrics feature allows users to compare domain performance to its competitors’ side-by-side. The tool presents the information in an easy-to-read table for an at-a-glance view of the competitive landscape.
We know that page speed is one of the factors Google takes into consideration when ranking pages for SEO. Landing pages with longer load times not only negatively affect indexation, but they also tend to have higher bounce rates and lower average session durations – reflecting a more negative user experience. Page Speed Insights is a free tool that measures the performance of a web page for mobile and desktop devices. It crawls landing pages to identify opportunities to improve page speed, including them as recommendations within your results. While you may need the help of your web team to install these changes, knowing which landing pages perform the best will help you determine which URLs you should (and shouldn’t!) be promoting in your other PR and marketing efforts.
As all communications professionals have heard time and time again – content is key. If your company isn’t creating and distributing timely, relevant and consistent organic content, then you aren’t doing enough to keep your audience’s attention. No audience = no potential customers = no good. From topic generators to text editors, there are many free tools that can help optimize your company’s content.
The Headline Analyzer from CoSchedule is exactly that – a free analyzer that scores your headline quality and rates its ability to drive social shares, traffic and SEO. The tool provides users with an overview of word balance, sentiment and length. The results include links to CoSchedule blog posts that share more information about how users can improve headline scores. The tool has a preview section as well, which allows you to view your headline exactly as it would appear in a Google Search or Email Subject Line so you can optimize your copy for its purpose.
Hemingway App is a free tool that we use here at SHIFT daily to help make sure we are sharing our owned content in the most succinct, clear way possible. The website highlights lengthy sentences and other common writing errors for the user to review. Errors are color-coded, making it easy for the user to follow along with recommendations. We find this tool is useful in making sure our blog posts and social media copy are as readable and digestible as possible.
While these tools can be helpful, especially for marketers facing budget restrictions, they should not be used as the sole basis for developing your long-term digital marketing strategy. Even the paid versions of these tools, while they offer more capabilities, are not sufficient substitutes for the expertise and experience a marketing agency or executive adds to your digital strategy. While it may seem like you would cut costs by doing the research and analysis on your own, hiring a true expert on marketing tactics can provide substantial value – and save your time, sanity and money in the long run.